Posts Tagged ‘media’

How do you choose a jury for Morrissey?

posted by Peter Roberts

It has just been announced that former front man of The Smiths, Morrissey will have his libel case against the NME heard before a jury.

 The case is based on an interview given by the singer to the magazine in 2007, which he claims was “twisted” to make him appear racist.

The case is not expected to he heard until next year, but what struck me in light of these developments was the likely process to best select an objective jury panel. Clearly, this is no slur on juries per se, but an illustration of the feelings aroused in most of us by artistes and their work. The questioning of potential jurors could be hugely entertaining, but largely inconclusive. It will probably be easy enough to weed out those who have strong views – either way – for the singer, but what of those, and I include myself, who are burdened by what I’d call our cultural prejudices? I know nothing about One Direction for instance, who are most probably a likeable and hard-working bunch, but there’s something in the name that strikes – pardon the expression – a wrong note in me. I would do my best to remain impartial if the poor things were in the dock, but they occupy a place in my heart alongside the likes of Steven Seagal and Pixie Geldof which I’m afraid to say consigns them to a perennial state of irrational dislike.

The libel hearing will make for great theatre; I hope they manage to find the right reviewers.

People in glass houses

This may come as some surprise to people who know me but for once I have been loath to enter a debate and share my opinion, but this afternoon my will broke and I could no longer hold back. Yes I am going to share my view on the issue of Blackberry and their ongoing outage.

Firstly I have to declare an interest; I am a Blackberry user and have been for over nine years and despite it taking over life, I am a fan, they do what they say and despite the hard life I give them they don’t tend to let me down. Equally I am not an Apple or Android knocker – to be honest I have more important things to argue about.

What I am passionate about though, is how issues are managed and the study of how people react to them. With Blackberry you have a perfect storm, a technology company that has courted some negative publicity recently is constantly doing battle with another fruit based technology company and prides itself on its security systems.

The last couple of days have seen a clamor for Blackberry to talk more, respond more, be more open etc.  – but who is asking? The cry would seem to lead by social media and technology commentators. Why is this? Well I believe it is down to certain groups believing they have an inalienable right to know everything, not for any reason other than they just deserve to know. The reality is RIM suffered a switch failure which resulted in a backlog of emails clogging up their system. To be honest it’s not very exciting, a bit techy and sounds like a reasonable explanation, which the majority of fair minded people will understand.

Building on this we are seeing ongoing comparisons with Apple in terms of how open they are and how they would have managed things better. Now I don’t have the best of memories at times, but I seem to remember it took an awful lot of persuasion to get Apple to admit there may be a problem with the reception on the iPhone 4. I don’t think anyone would agree that that was handled in a very efficient way.

Finally I think it is fair to say that whatever RIM said over the last couple of days would have been criticised and picked apart by the same aforementioned people  - what would that have achieved?

I say the following as someone who uses their Blackberry a lot and does rely it on for my job, in reality my Blackberry hasn’t worked reliably since Monday lunchtime. But all that has meant is that when I went to get my sandwich at lunchtime I couldn’t check my emails and likewise when I get home tonight that little red light won’t be flashing at me all evening. Do you know what? My world has kept turning; after all I can still make calls and text which are pretty useful ways of communicating, especially the first one.

Oh, one last thing… What this has proved categorically is that technology people should not make jokes, they really should leave that to the experts.

Is the recession making us smarter?

posted by Peter Roberts

Figures from the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations would suggest that the tough times are proving to be a healthy catalyst for our mental wellbeing.

As a nation, we appear to be jettisoning the ribaldry of the lads’ mags for a different form of stimulation, as extended by those titles, WH Smith would collectively label, Current Affairs.

What’s the evidence? Weekly heavyweight, The Economist grew circulation in every region it operates worldwide in the first half of the year, while news ‘collage’, The Week saw growth of 6.7% year-on-year. Furthermore, David Goodhart’s Prospect enjoyed a jump of over 10% compared to the same time last year. What more, Private Eye posted a 0.5% increase year-on-year, while The Oldie showed growth of 9.1%.

Meanwhile, in the more tabloid corner, trade is positively sluggish.  Bauer Media’s, Zoo, was down by 27.9% year on year. Its older stable mate, Loaded lost 26.3% of its sales year on year, while IPC’s Nuts had wilted by 22% over the same time period.

So, there you have it – we’re swapping girl bands for Milibands, or are we? It is, of course, something of a specious argument, but probably holds a grain of truth in light of the usual pattern of self-improvement at times of uncertainty.

Charlie Brooker explains “the news”

If you’ve got two minutes to spare, Charlie Brooker and the Newswipe team provide a brilliant insight into just how a news story gets packaged for TV:

Charlie Brooker on How To Report The News

Contains some strong (but brief) language. As if the words “Charlie Brooker” didn’t give that away.

(Sorry) We’re just not that into you today

As if the concurrent enquiries into the Iraq war and financial crisis weren’t enough to keep the world’s media busy last week, we also watched as the Caribbean nation of Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake.

This has been a massive humanitarian tragedy and our thoughts are with all those affected by the disaster.

Events and news cycles such as this one usually come as a shock purely because they’re unexpected. However, that shouldn’t be taken to mean “uncommon”. The nature of news media is to find the newest, most exciting stories to tell, so there will always be a bias towards covering the unexpected. Particularly in the case of major disasters where every story is a very real human interest story.

From a purely academic perspective the past week also serves as an important reminder for spokespeople (and marketers) that regardless of how important you are, or how interesting you think your story is on a normal day, sometimes…stuff happens.

Across the world last week, dozens of spokespeople who got out of bed early to front up for interviews will have arrived at studios, or sat waiting sleepily by the phone waiting for it to ring, only to have been stood down by broadcasters.

Stories that were “scheduled to run” were been pulled to make room for more pressing news.

This is one of the quirks of the game of media relations. If you want to participate in making or contributing to the news then you have to be prepared for things to not go your way – every time you saddle up. That includes not actually getting the opportunity to get on the horse. You don’t have to like it, you just have to accept it, and that goes for the rest of your campaign as well. It’s literally nothing personal.

That said, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the effects of a hijacked news cycle, some of which you may have heard from Catherine Cross in our media training. But be warned – most of them involve a bit of extra work:

  • Be available generally. The media doesn’t care about your day job, and from a journalist’s perspective if you’re not available then someone else probably will be. If you want that headline, you’ve got to make the time for it. If your job doesn’t allow you the time, maybe you need a different job. Or maybe someone else needs yours.
  • Take your medicine. If you’re an official spokesperson then sometimes you’re just going to have to be the face of a company that has to take some constructive criticism. Like being bumped from your interview, it’s nothing personal. It’s all part of managing your own relationships with the media.
  • Do more media. There’s no value in scarcity for the vast majority of spokespeople and playing hard to get is just annoying. Only the very top people in a company get to play the “I’m important” card, and it’s rarely appreciated by journalists who are covering your business. Far better to be the go-to person not just for your product, but your brand, and if you can swing it, your industry. That’s one of the things that leads to thought leadership, and it’s a powerful tool in strategic issues management (which we’ll deal with another time).
  • Don’t blame your communications team. It’s not their fault that earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes or terrorist attacks happen. Of course there’s also something to be said for campaign scheduling, i.e. know what’s going on before you try to pitch an interview in the first place.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. A big scrapbook full of splashy media coverage makes everyone feel good, but realistically why do you want everything to appear at once anyway? You don’t have your life savings in one bank account (I hope), so take a balanced approach to your campaign planning as well. Think about how political campaigns, or grassroots movements work – they all start small and build to a crescendo. Ok, we’re not all launching iPhones, but for the right audience, tapping into the right media, the principle still applies.

Chris Evans – a promotion too far for the BBC?

posted by Peter Roberts

There’s been much wailing about the promotional airtime afforded by the BBC to Chris Evan’s new breakfast show on Radio 2.

The latest critic has been former Capital Radio and Virgin Radio presenter, Steve Penk.

You can read more here.
 
While I have some sympathy with Penk’s misgivings about the BBC’s cross-promotion, the debate does highlight the preciousness of editorial coverage, especially for the BBC. Fundamentally, we arrive at the question of whether Evans’ move in the schedule constitutes a new story?

The BBC’s news outlets, including BBC 1 and BBC News Online, previewed the presenter’s arrival with expansive reports.

Is this wrong? For many of the audience it is.

As is the case with reports pertaining to the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or a much publicised product launch.

However, for many individuals there’s a greater significance in football’s transfer market than the machinations in Westminster, and affairs in Albert Square, rather than Tiananmen Square.

This, of course could be overlooked if it wasn’t for the numbers who are interested, and any discerning television editor will be keeping abreast of audience engagement in such stories. Marry that interest with the fact that viewers are paying their licence fee and you have a difficult call to make.

What a GCSE in social media means for Crisis management

As of next year, it seems that teenagers are going to be able to turn their Tweets into UCAS points, with The Daily Telegraph reporting today that an exam board is set to launch a GCSE called ‘English Studies: Digital Communication’.

According to the paper, this will require students to be able to “read, analyse, critique and plan…industry made or user generated examples of advertising, audio podcasts, video/moving image, websites, social networks, wikis and blogs”. In other words, social media.

At the same time, The Independent, which has long-targeted a youth audience (in particular students on campus) and always been something of a pioneer with regards new ways for people to read its newspaper, is embroiled in a potential minefield with its readership over the possible appointment of a new editor, Rod Liddle.

Within hours of Media Guardian publishing the story that Liddle was being lined up as a potential recruit, a Facebook group had sprung up opposing the move. At time of writing, that group has 2,732 members, which is nearly 1,000 more than it had this time yesterday. This is only one example of a string of unpopular decisions by prominent organisations that have resulted in a large number of people registering their dissatisfaction within a short space of time in a similar way.

For comms professionals, social media can be a powerful tool provided you can harness it. For crisis practioners however, it presents a different challenge – how do you communicate sensibly, clearly and effectively with this type of audience, who are clearly pushing for change, whilst protecting your company’s reputation?

As my colleague Grant notes in his blog post today, monitoring and listening to social media channels is a great place to start, but it should only be a start. Actually being in a position to effectively engage with this audience requires an understanding of what motivates them, what their goals are, how you can acknowledge these and crucially, how you can best communicate your key message to them in a way that they will listen to, understand and accept.

In other words, before you can apply the basic principles that drive your crisis comms to these groups, you really need to know and understand your audience first. Sounds familiar? It should do, because it’s something that we do with other audiences and channels already. It’s just that new learning is required with regards to these groups and it is this that can appear daunting at first.

Training can help immensely in this regard, but it also still requires a lot of hard groundwork as well in order to succeed.

Ashes to regain crown-jewel status?

Our first post from Senior Associate Director, Peter Roberts (who will soon be posting from his own account):

 

In 1998, England’s home Test cricket matches, including the Ashes, were controversially axed from the list of so-called, “crown jewel” events; that is those events that are deemed far too precious not to televise on free-to-air. Other jewels include the Olympics and football’s World Cup.

The Ashes have since, largely, been the preserve of digital television, bar the 2005 series, which was shown to great public approval – undoubtedly, a sure testament of free TV’s ability to bring the nation together.

A review of the listed events has been ongoing with the recommendations set to be announced tomorrow – Friday. England’s homes Ashes Test are set to return to free-to-air, much to the vexation, no doubt, of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

However, here lies the nub; the current contract to show England’s home test matches runs until 2013. Consequently, England’s first Ashes series to be shown on free-to-air won’t be until 2017.
 
Now, that may be a long time in cricket, but it’s an awfully long time in television terms. With analogue switch off expected to have been completed in the UK by 2012, the fractured broadcasting landscape will be an altogether different place compared to the relatively stable picture in 2005, which begs one to ask how much coming together will accompany the Ashes return.  – Peter